Pakrat Estukyan

Մենք ու մերոնք - Biz ve bizimkiler

Nation in, ultra-nationalism out

Armenian people, in the course of their over-300-years-old history, completed their nation-forming process two centuries ago compared to other peoples (Turks, Kurds, Laz and Assyrian) they lived together. Turkish people couldn't have succeeded in their efforts of forming a “synthetic” nation, though they had restored to every oppression mechanism possible. Though their attempts for imposing “Turkish nation” through denial and assimilation instead of building a common future in the common lands came a long way and turned the country in a graveyard of peoples and cultures, in the last analysis, their project proved unsuccessful. While Armenians created a national consciousness in the first quarter of 19th century through some elements such as transformation of language, educational campaign, a kind of renaissance in literature and art and the organization of political reason, Turkish nation trapped itself in a chauvinistic nationalism and flag worshiping.

Kurdish people, starting from the last quarter of 20th century, has been forming a national consciousness in parallel with Armenian model and fighting against the religionist and reactionary elements inside them. The hint of this parallelism can be seen in their efforts for creating a national literature as well as their ideal of an independent state. In Diyarbekir, under the roof of “Kurdi-Der”, writers, artists, teachers and intellectuals come together three times in a week and work for creating new terms in Kurdish, which is a really important step in the process of nation-forming. After all, one of the most basic necessities of nation-forming is the formation of national language. 

Nikolas Marr's “Lazistan'a Yolculuk” (A Journey to the Land of Laz People) published by Aras Publishing inspired this article. This academic linguistic study carried out by the famous linguist in Eastern Black Sea region about 100 years ago offers insights for understanding the present. Telling that Laz people, as a result of insistent denialism of “mullahs”, were convinced that their history is only 300 years old, Marr says that people don't speak Laz deliberately and they tried to make the language to be forgotten. In fact, this 300-years-old history is the history of Ottoman Empire's forced Islamization works in Eastern Black Sea region. Islamization of Hamshen Armenians happened in the same period. There is no doubt that Islamization and Turkification were complementary identity elements for Laz, Hamshen, Georgian, Pontus and other peoples. 

The same lands served as a pot in which the people from Northern Caucasus, who left their motherlands and took shelter in the “land of caliphate” in the second half of 19th century, will be melted away. Adyghe, Abkhaz and Kabardian people voluntarily became distant to their mother languages and traditional names. Becoming Turkish was considered as a precondition of integration by all Muslim peoples. 

In addition to the state policy projecting the formation of Turkish national identity, social life's movement from the villages to the cities facilitated the process of dissolution and assimilation of peoples. Today in Turkey, 93% of the population lives in cities and towns.

President Erdoğan, while he was the prime minister, said that there are 35 ethnic or religious groups in Turkey. 

However, as I mentioned above, peoples, regardless of their history of existence as an ethnic group, should have certain characteristics, especially the national consciousness, in order to be defined as a “nation”. I am talking about a national consciousness which supersedes the notion of clan (aşiret). An inclusive understanding of nation through which individual, familial, genealogical and clan values can be expressed is of course valuable. On the other hand, an ultra-nationalist ideology that idolizes this understanding and carries it like a flag is beyond worthless.  

May God protect our human civilization from miserable people from any nation (Turk, Kurd, Armenian and etc.) who try to fortify their personal defects by their nation or nationality.